Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Tijuana River mouth shut many times this spring

Deadly consequences move agencies to work on permit to keep it open

Tijuana River mouth, Imperial Beach
Tijuana River mouth, Imperial Beach

This winter's El Niño wasn't much as weather goes, but its ocean-water effects — which closed the Tijuana River mouth multiple times since March — left the river estuary vulnerable to catastrophe, according to scientist Jeff Crooks.

"Hundreds of leopard sharks died — sharks aren't great at dealing with low oxygen…. Purple varnish clams and bubble snails died," Crooks said.

Flooding pushed endangered clapper rails — a shy, leggy bird with an orange bill — out of the center of the estuary to dry spots along Imperial Beach's Seacoast Drive, he said.

"You could do a clapper rail survey from your car driving around."

The flooding also hit Imperial Beach, sending water into low-lying areas including Seacoast Drive. No one was prepared for the rain and the sewage coupled with the river mouth closing, but they will be next time, Crooks said.

"Fish & Wildlife is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to have a standing permit to open the river mouth. They moved very fast on the emergency permit, and we learned that we should be prepared to do this again."

The river mouth closed on March 31st, when wave energy and sand from the SANDAG 2012 replenishment project filled it in. The sea-life kill began eight days later, while the City of Imperial Beach and U.S. Fish & Wildlife were finalizing the permissions and details of how to reopen the mouth.

What killed wasn't just the river mouth closing — the Tijuana River carried in what Crooks calls nutrients and algae that thrives on those nutrients.

When it rains, the CILA pump station in Tijuana along the concrete channel usually shuts down in order to protect the pumps. As a result, unprocessed sewage and street runoff is sent down the Tijuana River and out to sea. With the river mouth closed this spring, the sewage became food for algae that also consumed all the oxygen. It was the loss of dissolved oxygen that killed, Crooks said.

Through monitors, estuary scientists watched the oxygen levels drop and rise every day.

"The light comes on and photosynthesis starts, and at night it stops," he said. "It's basic science at work."

So, they expected to see highs and lows every day. But on April 8, the dissolved oxygen level dropped and didn't recover.

"This system should be able to withstand a weekend low-oxygen event," Crooks said. "But it didn't come back up and we were literally sitting there [watching monitors and] rooting for the oxygen to come back up."

Imperial Beach city staff and Fish & Wildlife first opened a channel on April 11, and the flooded system drained out furiously, leaving the beach strewn with dead sea life. But the job wasn't over, as the big-wave energy persisted in pushing sand back into the narrow channel. It completely closed up once more, and after that, Crooks said, the crews just continued "nicking away at it to keep it from closing."

Waves versus tides is the basic conflict at work in closing the river mouth, Crooks said.

"Wave energy typically wants to close the system. Tidal action tends to keep it open," he said.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

How to get to the river path from Sports Arena Boulevard

Maybe you shouldn't try
Next Article

What San Diego restaurant staffs eat, dumpster diving for dinner

How food critic Naomi Wise started her life in San Diego, how food critic Eleanor Widmer ended hers
Tijuana River mouth, Imperial Beach
Tijuana River mouth, Imperial Beach

This winter's El Niño wasn't much as weather goes, but its ocean-water effects — which closed the Tijuana River mouth multiple times since March — left the river estuary vulnerable to catastrophe, according to scientist Jeff Crooks.

"Hundreds of leopard sharks died — sharks aren't great at dealing with low oxygen…. Purple varnish clams and bubble snails died," Crooks said.

Flooding pushed endangered clapper rails — a shy, leggy bird with an orange bill — out of the center of the estuary to dry spots along Imperial Beach's Seacoast Drive, he said.

"You could do a clapper rail survey from your car driving around."

The flooding also hit Imperial Beach, sending water into low-lying areas including Seacoast Drive. No one was prepared for the rain and the sewage coupled with the river mouth closing, but they will be next time, Crooks said.

"Fish & Wildlife is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to have a standing permit to open the river mouth. They moved very fast on the emergency permit, and we learned that we should be prepared to do this again."

The river mouth closed on March 31st, when wave energy and sand from the SANDAG 2012 replenishment project filled it in. The sea-life kill began eight days later, while the City of Imperial Beach and U.S. Fish & Wildlife were finalizing the permissions and details of how to reopen the mouth.

What killed wasn't just the river mouth closing — the Tijuana River carried in what Crooks calls nutrients and algae that thrives on those nutrients.

When it rains, the CILA pump station in Tijuana along the concrete channel usually shuts down in order to protect the pumps. As a result, unprocessed sewage and street runoff is sent down the Tijuana River and out to sea. With the river mouth closed this spring, the sewage became food for algae that also consumed all the oxygen. It was the loss of dissolved oxygen that killed, Crooks said.

Through monitors, estuary scientists watched the oxygen levels drop and rise every day.

"The light comes on and photosynthesis starts, and at night it stops," he said. "It's basic science at work."

So, they expected to see highs and lows every day. But on April 8, the dissolved oxygen level dropped and didn't recover.

"This system should be able to withstand a weekend low-oxygen event," Crooks said. "But it didn't come back up and we were literally sitting there [watching monitors and] rooting for the oxygen to come back up."

Imperial Beach city staff and Fish & Wildlife first opened a channel on April 11, and the flooded system drained out furiously, leaving the beach strewn with dead sea life. But the job wasn't over, as the big-wave energy persisted in pushing sand back into the narrow channel. It completely closed up once more, and after that, Crooks said, the crews just continued "nicking away at it to keep it from closing."

Waves versus tides is the basic conflict at work in closing the river mouth, Crooks said.

"Wave energy typically wants to close the system. Tidal action tends to keep it open," he said.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Interact with Animals, On the Harbor with Hard Kombucha, Interior Design Home Tours

Events July 9-July 11, 2020
Next Article

Interact with Animals, On the Harbor with Hard Kombucha, Interior Design Home Tours

Events July 9-July 11, 2020
Comments
1

"No one was prepared for the flooding and the sewage". What? This has been happening for decades! You mean "the government was inept again." And the Mexicans continue to pour sewage into our beaches and no one does anything about it.

June 10, 2016

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close